Freedom of Association, Decent Work and Social Protection for All: SOLIDAR Network at the 104th Sessions of the ILO Conference - Focus on Sugar Cane Workers Fighting for Freedom of Association

On 14 June2012, the members of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) unanimously voted for the adoption of Recommendation 202 on National Floors of Social Protection (R202). The Recommendation commits governments to ensuring that all people residing on their territories have access to (at least) four basic social protection guarantees: access to essential health care, and income security for children, for persons of active age who are unable to earn sufficient income, and for older people.

Trade unions and representative NGOs have a key role in ensuring that R 202 is
-* submitted to the competent State’s authorities
-* properly implemented in consultation and with the participation of “all relevant and representative organisations of persons concerned” (ILO R202, art. 3 (r))
-* the first step towards the development of universal and comprehensive social protection systems.

In the framework of its advocacy and campaign work to promote Decent Work and Social Protection for All and to highlight the European Year for Development’s month dedicated to Decent Jobs, from 1 to 4 June, SOLIDAR together with its Members – SOLIDAR Suisse, FOS-Solidaristische Solidariteit and Solidarité Socialiste - will attend the 104th Session of the International Labour Organisation’s Conference in Geneva to support the demands of its partners – Asmade (Burkina Faso), the Egyptian Center for Economic Social and Cultural Rights (Egypt), and the Coordinadora Sindical de trabajadores azucareros (El Salvador)- for Freedom of Association, Decent Work and Universal Access to Health. A Roundtable debate – with the presence of ILO ACTRAV- will take place on Tuesday 2 June to present their demands and their work (you can find the programme here).

Focus on Sugar Cane Workers Fighting for Freedom of Association
Historically, sugarcane cutters (over 30,000 people during harvest time) have not enjoyed fundamental trade union and labour rights such as freedom of association, social security, fair wages, protection equipment and working tools.

To overcome this situation and give a voice to these workers, on 22 September 2013, the trade union SITRACAÑA was established.
“Independent trade union organisations are key to ensuring that workers, informal or formal, have decent work, with access to social protection” says Noé Nerio (Coordinadora Sindical de Trabajadores Azucareros, El Salvador).

In January this year, SITRACAÑA filed a complaint with the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO. The case concerns the violation of trade union rights, enshrined in national and international legislation (namely Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise), to the detriment of the members of SITRACAÑA Governing Body and all its members and affiliates.

In this context, Noé Nerio, of the Sugar Workers Union Coordination of El Salvador and Secretary General of the trade union CUTS, will be in Geneva during the forthcoming International Labour Conference to seek international support for the sugarcane workers’ fight for freedom of association and to push the government of El Salvador to:

-* Grant recognition to SITRACAÑA representatives in order to allow workers to claim, through their trade union, their most basic rights and thereby to improve their living conditions and those of their families.

-* Commit to establishing tripartite social dialogue to analyse and improve the working conditions of sugar cane cutters and define joint alternatives.

These demands have been transmitted to the Minister of Employment and Social Security with a letter sent this week by CUTS and the MUSYGES (Movimiento de Unidad Sindical y Gremial de El Salvador).

To know more about sugar cane workers in El Salvador, watch FOS video (in Spanish with Dutch subtitles).

Also available in pdf.